Here's another one of those remarkably mature first novels. The author, a 12-year veteran of the Hot Shot fire-fighting teams, specializing in wildfires, has put together a story that's dramatic, exciting, affecting, and memorable. Barnes, leader of a Hot Shot crew, lost some members of his team last year when a fire got out of control; now, unable to shake the terrible memories, waking each morning to 12 ghosts, he grows close to a neighboring family, finding in this mother, daughter, and grandfather the way to his own salvation. Robinson mixes memories of fire fighting with some intense psychological and philosophical rumination. The latter might have turned the book ponderous and pretentious, but Robinson clearly has a storytelling gift, and that helps him keep the tale grounded firmly in everyday reality. A fine debut.
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From Publishers Weekly
A 12-year veteran of a wildfire suppression crew, the author of this touching debut traces a week in the life of Fort Collins, Colo., firefighter Barnes, who can't recover after surviving a surprise firestorm that claimed the lives of nearly his entire Hot Shot wildfire team. Barnes's grieving process is complicated by a lawsuit filed by the father of another crew boss, Max, in an effort to clear his son's name of any hint of negligence. Though Barnes's job is his life and he's known by his crew as the "mother hen," he refuses to testify in court that Max acted sensibly at the fire. In a series of flashbacks, the crew's weak spots are gradually revealed, including Max's headstrong attitude and another member's struggle with alcoholism. To Barnes's further dismay, he is haunted by the ghosts of the dead crew members, who appear seeking an explanation. His only consolation is his relationship with his neighbor Ruth, her young daughter, Grace, and Ruth's Vietnam veteran father. In caring for them after Ruth's husband abandons them, he comes to love Ruth, adore Grace and respect Ruth's father, who puts their hardships in perspective with his homespun wisdom. Robinson's prose can be awkward and flat at times, but the riveting firestorm flashbacks more than make up for the weak points. Overall, this is a poignant story about "the pull of the past," affectingly warm and compassionate.
“An entertaining gallop of a story, by a writer both innovative and spellbinding.”
—Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats
“Robinson’s atmospheric tale of betrayal and revenge paints a passionate picture of the Lost Generation…”
— Publisher’s Weekly
“The author deals with the main character’s shellshock with a great deal of care and sympathy, while paralleling the brutality of the world off the battlefield. This is a book not to be missed; it is a mystery, thriller, historical drama in one package.”
—Manhattan Book Review
“The lessons of World War I are as relevant today as they were one hundred years ago and when we read novels like Death of a Century, we are reminded poignantly of these lessons.”
—Historical Novel Society